Mar 19 2016
We humans have been speculating about the peregrine falcons at the Cathedral of Learning — about E2’s death and Hope’s future — but the only way to figure out what’s really going on is to watch the birds’ behavior and write down the facts without speculation.
Using the facts, we can match what we see to typical species behavior and arrive at a general answer. Long-time observers may also match facts to years of observing the individual birds, providing a specific answer based on the individual’s “personality.” However, additional data may contradict our conclusions. We must remain open to changing our minds. That’s how we learn.
Today I’ll tell you what I’ve seen at the Cathedral of Learning and will do some matching based on 15 years of watching the peregrines at Pitt and 8.5 years of knowing E2 as an individual. Keep in mind that conclusions are always speculation, even though educated by long experience.
- E2’s death and activities surrounding it:
- E2’s last appearance on camera was at 12:37pm on Tuesday March 15.
- Hope laid her second egg at 5:08pm on Tuesday March 15.
- E2 always visited each egg as it was laid. He did not visit Hope’s second egg.
- E2 always brought food to his mates at dawn. He has not been present at dawn since Tuesday March 15.
- E2’s body was found on Wednesday March 16, perhaps at 4:00pm–5:00pm. It was retrieved around 6:00pm.
- E2’s body has a broken right wing and broken right leg and blood in mouth. Blood in mouth indicates internal injuries.
- When E2’s body was retrieved his wings could be opened, therefore no rigor mortis. Rigor mortis is temporary. I am awaiting further data but the Backyard Chickens website says it sets in half an hour to 4 hours after death and ends 24-48 hours after death. (Thank you, Donna Memon, for this link.)
- Hope’s activities since E2 disappeared:
- She has stayed close to the nest and laid a third egg.
- This morning’s temperature dropped to 34 degrees F. Under these circumstances peregrines cover their eggs to keep them from getting too cold.
- Hope covered the eggs last night.
- Yesterday afternoon when Hope was not on camera she was not at the Cathedral of Learning. (I did not see her fly.)
- Is Hope alone? Is there a new male present?
- A second peregrine has not been seen on camera since E2’s last appearance. An intruder male would begin courting immediately. There has been no courting at all.
- Yesterday afternoon I observed off and on for 90 minutes from the ground at the Cathedral of Learning. I never saw two birds — only Hope.
- Hope and E2 were loud when they were near each other, lots of ee-chupping and calling. I have not reviewed all of the audio archives but from what I have heard… there has been no peregrine noise since E2 disappeared. (This may need to be corrected if additional data contradicts it.)
CONCLUSIONS (SPECULATION!) ABOUT WHAT HAS HAPPENED:
- Time of E2’s death: My conclusion, based on knowing him as an individual, is that he died on Tuesday afternoon before 5:00pm.
- Cause of E2’s death: Based on description of his injuries, my conclusion is that he was hit broadside by something much larger than him. These massive injuries cannot be inflicted by another bird.
- Underlying cause of E2’s death: This is speculation on top of speculation! My guess is that he was hit by a vehicle while swooping low over the road. (I once saw him swoop low over Forbes Avenue. This 1 observation in 8.5 years merely means he was willing to swoop low over a road at one point.)
- Did an intruder force E2 into a fight? No. If an intruder had been involved, that intruder would be at the Cathedral of Learning and courting with Hope by now.
- Is Hope incubating? I don’t know Hope’s ways like I knew Dorothy’s so I don’t know. I would have answered that question based on her continuous time on the eggs but Hope cannot incubate continuously because she must hunt for herself.
- Is Hope hunting for her own food? I don’t know. I have not observed long enough on the ground.
- Is there a new male at the site yet? Not that we know of.
As I said above, conclusions are always speculation.
Keep watching and learning.